Try as you might, your IT department won’t be allowed to ignore the current drama surrounding the swine flu outbreak south of the border. While the number of confirmed swine flu deaths is one (yes one) as of this writing, the 7/24 news cycle is in full Doom’s Day mode. Your customers may soon be asking what your plans are because they are just in the process of making their own plans. Unlike “normal” data center disasters like fire or flood, a pandemic scenario is just not on most people’s planning radar.
So what are we in IT do? Chances are you’ve already taken care of it. If you have remote access technology in place for your employees, and you’ve already planned for a building disaster, you’ve probably done as much as you can do unless you can find staff who are impervious to the flu.
The rest is really a matter of business continuity, not disaster recovery.
A relevant article appeared on processor.com a few years ago that stated as much:
A major part of an IT admin’s job during a pandemic will involve remote IT administration. Unlike disaster planning for acts of God, such as floods, fire, or earthquakes, staffers during a pandemic will not immediately seek to relocate.
“One interesting difference between [a pandemic] and another disaster is how everybody cannot just go and work at a different data center. You don’t want to take everybody and put them all in one place,” notes James Governor, an analyst for Redmonk, an analyst firm built on open source. “You do need a distributed and potentially home-working strategy because this is not the same as your [average disaster].”
Enabling staffers to access and perform networking tasks remotely is crucial in the event of a pandemic. “Any establishment worth its salt has good access tools to use the network from wherever they are on the planet. That is just good practice in any case,” Governor says. “And certainly, it is good practice if one is concerned about any potential issues where you might not be able to access the network in a way that you normally would.”
And as Bob DeCoufle pointed out on Tuesday, there is only a remote possibility of needing to invoke your disaster plan, assuming you had a recovery facility “outside of the epidemic region.” How one would anticipate where that would be is another matter, but in any case, few of us have the resources to relocate around a pandemic.
Unless we’re hosting hospital applications or other life support systems, asking our employees to do more than work remotely is probably unrealistic. In a genuine crisis, they will likely be home with their families, and Uncle Sam will probably be calling the shots regardless of our plans.
If by chance you are also required to cover the continuity aspect of your company, Forrester Research offers the following planning tips for a pandemic:
Preparing for a pandemic involves collaboration between all the departments in an enterprise, Forrester Research says. If an outbreak of a contagious virus or disease keeps more than half of all employees from showing up for work, some of the things an organization must do include:
Maintaining inventory and supplier relationships
Providing systematic communications about the outbreak for employees
Making vaccines and medical support for employees available (if possible)
Offering means of transportation to and from work in case public transit systems fail
Providing tools and resources to enable employees to work from home
The phrase “this too shall pass” brings me peace of mind. The swine flu will pass. In the meantime here at DSS, we’ll be making sure our remote access systems are up to snuff and reviewing our staffing plans for the data center. An emergency IT staffing plan should reflect the kind of business you’re in. If your IT systems support the lives of others, you obviously have a greater ethical responsibility than those who are running online shopping sites. For the crisis du jour, you will want to have an appropriate plan for on-site data center support.
And if you put your gear in a facility like this, you’ll have even less to worry about the next time the flu bug oinks in our direction.